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Driver in fatal 2018 Uber self-driving car crash charged with negligent homicide

Uber Self-driving Volvo
A Volvo XC90 fitted with Uber's self-driving technology.
  • In March 2018, a self-driving Uber car struck and killed a woman in Tempe, Arizona, who was crossing the street at night.
  • Investigators said Rafaela Vasquez, the car’s operator, was watching a video on her phone at the time of the crash and didn’t brake in time.
  • Vasquez has been charged with negligent homicide in Maricopa County Superior Court.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

In March 2018, a woman in Tempe, Arizona died after being struck by a self-driving Uber car. The driver operating the car at the time of the crash has been charged with negligent homicide, the Maricopa County Attorney's Office said in a statement.

Rafaela Vasquez, 46, was the safety driver riding in the self-driving Uber when it hit Elaine Herzberg, 49, as she walked her bicycle across the street that evening in Tempe, Arizona. Shortly after, Tempe police released video footage that showed Vasquez looking away moments before the collision, Jalopnik reported.

Vasquez pleaded not guilty at her Tuesday arraignment in Maricopa County Superior Court, and the court ordered that she be released with ankle monitoring to pretrial services.

Investigators said Vasquez was watching a video on her phone and didn't brake in time. The Uber car hit Herzberg while it was going at about 40 mph, according to the New York Times. It's believed to be the first time an autonomous vehicle has killed a pedestrian.

A November 2019 investigation conducted by the National Transportation Safety Board concluded that "had the vehicle operator been attentive, she would likely have had sufficient time to detect and react to the crossing pedestrian to avoid the crash or mitigate the impact."

"The vehicle operator's prolonged visual distraction, a typical effect of automation complacency, led to her failure to detect the pedestrian in time to avoid the collision," the investigation said.

The agency also said there was "inadequate safety culture" at Uber.

A spokesperson for Uber declined to comment on the matter to Business Insider. An attorney representing Vasquez did not immediately respond to The New York Times' request for comment.

Read the original article on Business Insider


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